Bradford Smith, president of the Foundation Center, blogs about philanthropy in today’s balkanized environment. He cites the Science Philanthropy Alliance as an example of an initiative that has transcended divisions. He writes:
Inevitably, some foundations…may decide to transcend the turmoil of the moment and focus their investments on the long-term future. We’re all familiar with examples of seemingly whimsical pursuits like sending a manned mission to Mars, but I’m thinking of more concerted initiatives such as the Science Philanthropy Alliance.
SPA was created by a group of nine foundations to “ensure more private funding is earmarked for the kinds of research initiatives that have led to the scientific, technological and medical breakthroughs that fuel our technology and information-driven economy of the 21st century.” Among the alliance’s members are some of the most prestigious names in American and global philanthropy, names like Alfred P. Sloan, Gordon and Betty Moore, and the UK-based Wellcome Trust, as well as newer philanthropies such as the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative and the Eric & Wendy Schmidt Fund for Strategic Innovation.
It’s a perfect example of how foundations can use their financial assets, intellectual capital, and freedom to focus on the long-term by supporting the kinds of basic scientific research that may lead to the next big breakthrough a generation from now — or to nowhere. While it’s a sign of our times that supporting science is seen in some quarters as a political act, this particular group of funders has decided to ignore the daily slings and arrows of Twitter and march boldly into the future.